(Reuters) - Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted cult leader Charles Manson and members of his so-called “family” for seven murders, then turned to writing books that took on everyone from George W. Bush to God, has died aged 80, his son said on Monday.
Bugliosi, whose book “Helter Skelter” about the Manson case became one of the best-selling true crime books of all time, died on Saturday evening at a Los Angeles hospital after a years-long battle with cancer, his son Vincent Bugliosi Jr. told Reuters.
Bugliosi was a 35-year-old Los Angeles deputy district attorney in 1970 when he brought to trial Manson and several of his followers who were all accused in the murder of seven people in a two-night spree in August 1969.
Bugliosi said they were the “most bizarre, savage, nightmarish murders in the recorded annals of crime” and their random nature brought a climate of fear to Southern California.
Manson had become a messiah to a group of hippies, runaways and petty criminals who bought into his anti-establishment rhetoric and twisted mysticism and took up residence at the Spahn Ranch, a former movie site outside of Los Angeles.
Manson stayed at the ranch and sent his lieutenant, Charles “Tex” Watson, along with Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Kreniwinkel to the home of actress Sharon Tate on the night of Aug. 8.
Tate and four guests were beaten, shot and stabbed to death.
Manson accompanied his followers the next night to the home of Leno LaBianca, a grocery executive, and his wife, Rosemary, who were repeatedly stabbed. The killers had used victims’ blood to write on the walls on both nights.
The trial last 9 1/2 months and was a dark, sometimes absurdist production - as “bizarre as the murders,” Bugliosi said.
Manson’s name would become a synonym for evil and Bugliosi said strangers would still approach him to discuss the case more than 40 years later.
Bugliosi went on to become a best-selling author with books about major legal cases. His last two books were “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder” and “Divinity of Doubt: The God Question”.
Writing and reporting by Bill Trott; Additional reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Tom Heneghan